EU Report Reveals Plans for Kosovo

By SLOBODAN LEKIC
The Associated Press
Monday, March 12, 2007; 2:01 PM

BRUSSELS, Belgium -- The European Union is getting ready to enforce a U.N. plan that gives supervised statehood to Kosovo, even though Serbia has rejected giving so much autonomy to its breakaway province.

According to a confidential report _ made available Monday to The Associated Press _ a 72-member European Union delegation with 200 local support staff would have a mandate to oversee implementation of the U.N. plan.

Serbia has rejected the plan, and a final round of talks between the leaders of Serbia and Kosovo ended inconclusively Saturday. The proposal could still serve as the basis for Kosovo's future, however, if approved by the U.N. Security Council.

Drafted by U.N. envoy Martti Ahtisaari, the plan calls for granting Kosovo internationally supervised statehood, with its own army, flag, anthem and constitution. The province's Serb minority, in turn, would gain broad rights in local governance and cultural protections.

EU Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn said it was "a realistic compromise, given the parties' irreconcilable positions on Kosovo's status."

The U.N. Security Council is split on the issue, however, with Russia supporting Serbia and the United States backing the U.N. plan. Diplomats did not expect significant progress until the G-8 summit in Germany in June, when Western leaders likely will discuss the situation with Russian President Vladimir Putin. No date has been set for a final resolution of the issue.

The EU, nevertheless, has been preparing to take over from the 3,000-strong U.N. authority that has been running Kosovo since a brief war in 1999, when NATO forces expelled the Serb army.

The confidential report _ which assumes Security Council approval _ maps out a transition between the U.N. administration, known as UNMIK, and its EU-led successor. It estimates the EU operation would cost $24.3 million in its first year.

Serbian government officials refused to comment on the EU plan, saying they had not seen it.

Kosovo presidential political adviser Muhamet Hamiti said Kosovo's government had hoped for a less "intrusive" foreign presence that would not impede the work of Kosovo's institutions, but he welcomed "the EU's prudent and expeditious planning for the future EU-led civilian mission."

Unlike UNMIK, the EU delegation would not have direct responsibility for running Kosovo, which would be left to the local government. But the chief EU representative would retain veto power over government decisions and the authority to sack officials found to be obstructing implementation of the Security Council resolution.

The EU team also would provide guidance to Kosovo authorities in drafting a new constitution.

The U.N. plan also calls for NATO's current, 16,500-troop force to remain initially, and withdraw once security was stable in the province of 2 million.

The remaining force would be responsible for overseeing the disbandment of Kosovo's civilian emergency unit, the Kosovo Protection Corps, which consists mainly of former ethnic Albanian rebels who fought the Serbian army in Kosovo's 1998-99 war.

This will be replaced by a nascent multiethnic army, the Kosovo Security Force, to be set up under NATO supervision together with a civilian-run Defense Ministry.

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Associated Press writers Garentina Kraja in Pristina, Kosovo, and Dusan Stojanovic in Belgrade, Serbia, contributed to this report.


© 2007 The Associated Press